I let most of my friends and family know that I do Weight Watchers, not because I'm trying to make a big deal about it, but because it's easier to just tell them than to try to hide the stuff I do like journaling, making food decisions, and going to meetings. I figure there is no reason to be ashamed of it, though I try not to talk about it too much because, let's face it, diet talk is boring. No one needs to hear all the various decisions I go through each day to try to stay within my points.
Sometimes I am not so sure that my open-door policy is the best strategy. I was out with a friend a couple of days ago, one who knows that I do WW. She was telling me about her sister telling her about Weight Watchers, and acting "so superior" about it. "I said, 'Thanks, but I'd rather be fat.'"
I wasn't sure what I, as an openly Weight-Watching person, was supposed to take from that story. Maybe I was being too sensitive, because it might have just been a story she was telling. But it was hard not to take it as a judgement of me and my choice to do the program, especially because when I'm with this friend I always feel some pressure not to order the salad, to get the fries, to order dessert.
I know why food decisions matter. Eating is a social activity and if two friends are eating together, there's some pressure for the two dinners to "match." If I get the veggie wrap with a side salad and you get a cheesburger and an order of french fries, chances are, you're going to be annoyed and feel like maybe you should have ordered something healthier. I, on the other hand, will probably be secretly drooling over your fries. If you want to order dessert but I don't, I am either going to have to sit there while you eat dessert in front of me or you're going to have to skip it.
It is all made harder by the fact that I usually want the dessert. I haven't come to a point in my life where I think fresh fruit is more exciting than apple pie. If pie and fresh fruit had the same effect on my waistline, you can bet that I would be eating the pie. Every time. But I'm OK with having pie only once in a while, and most of the time I do prefer the veggie wrap to the cheeseburger. For me, though, the real decision is about what I want more, eating pie anytime I want it or to be able to someday fit into size 10 jeans. And most of the time, the jeans sound a lot better. Though sometimes I do want the pie.
It's hard, though, when I'm with people who make different choices about the pie and the jeans, to stand firm on mine. There is the ambivalence on my part, and there's also the feeling of not wanting to stand out from the crowd, to fit in. There's sort of a schizophrenia in our society -- we're supposed to be thin, but we're supposed to do it effortlessly, while still eating the same things our friends do.
If someone constantly doesn't respect the decisions I make for myself, though, to me that becomes a problem. I really don't care what my friends look like, what they eat, whether they exercise, or what size their jeans are. I only start to have a problem when it becomes a challenge for me to act in my own best interests when they are around. I want to go out with friends but I also don't want to blow my diet week after week because I have to be a pal and order what they want to order. Most of the time, I'm always calculating. What can I get that isn't going to look like a diet entree? Are people going to want dessert? If I order dessert, can I get something light for dinner without too much comment? So instead of feeling superior when they order the cheeseburger, I'm really trying to figure out if I can "get away with" the veggie wrap. Or maybe I can splurge at this meal and do better later in the week.
I know what you're thinking as you read this. You're thinking I shouldn't let people influence me, that I should stand up for myself, that maybe I should ditch the friends that don't support my choices. Believe me, all those thoughts, plus a lot more, go through my head in these situations. Sooner or later I am going to have to become stronger or just give up the idea that I am going to ever lose weight. I already know I can't be "fat and happy." I have tried. I got the fat part down fine, but the happy part was harder. I'm not saying that it's impossible to be fat and happy, I'm saying it's impossible for me to be fat and happy. I wish I could just do my thing and let others do theirs. I don't care what they eat, why should they care what I eat?
Maybe there's another way, though. Maybe I should give up the idea that I need to defend my choices or make someone else happy about them. Maybe I need to just do what I need to do, matter-of-factly. It's really hard to be honest about what I want with people, and honest with myself too. Maybe I use someone else's feelings as an excuse to do things that I want to do even though I know I shouldn't. I do that all too often. I think it's time to take responsibilty for myself and let other people take responsibility for themselves.